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The Good Soldier: A Tale of Passion (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 11 Sep 2008


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Product details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New Ed. / edition (11 Sep 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199537275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199537273
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 2 x 13 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (62 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 432,739 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

This is the most intriguing, shocking and original book I have ever read. . . . The Good Soldier is the only book I have ever read and wanted to read again immediately . . . (The Times 21/04/01)

beautifully written, a wonderful novel but old-fashioned (Norah Naish, Western Daily Press (Bristol))

Book Description

A brilliant and heart-rending evocation of destructive passion. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Patrician on 13 Sep 2014
Format: Paperback
The Good Soldier, we are constantly being told, is an important, indeed a great book. There is talk of the unreliable narrator, the movement back & forth in time & from different people's perspectives, the exposure of the hypocrisy & sleaze hidden just under the surface of social respectability. These themes aren't new, of course, but here they are presented in an innovative, 'impressionistic' way. Or that is the intention; but for me it is not successful. And there seems to be little consensus even among commentators about what this achieves & how it achieves it.

What we end up with is an apparently well-intentioned chap spinning a yarn: he sees himself as sitting by the fireside recounting this story to an invisible companion (you) & this is very apt. If you have ever been trapped by someone bent on telling you every single detail of a story as it seems important to them, long-windedly going off at a tangent, losing their thread, mucking up the chronology by suddenly remembering something they forgot to say earlier....At least you might (if still awake) get a word in & say, "but I don't quite see....
But there is nobody to do that here. And so we are treated to a windy monologue, filled with asides, back-tracking, prejudices, rather tedious & irrelevant details & ridiculously unlikely scenarios.
As the account becomes more & more bogged down in all the extraneous detail the more confused & irritating it becomes. The prose is mannered & has at times a certain elegance but tends always towards the emotional, the melodramatic, the ornate, the gothic even. The narrator often reiterates ideas: "It was an extraordinary thing to say. Quite extraordinary."; " But what were they supposed to do? What in God's name were they supposed to do?".
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40 of 43 people found the following review helpful By Brownbear101 on 13 Nov 2010
Format: Paperback
This is a real page-turner with great storytelling and wonderful writing. It's an apparently simple story of a cuckolded husband but Maddox Ford tells and retells the same events from the point of view of each participant so that the reader's understandings and sympathies are constantly shifting as he begins to comprehend the complexities and motivations of those involved. Characters we thought we liked at the start become obnoxious and those we loathed are redeemed. It's clever not only because the ground constantly shifts under the reader's feet but also by the way the story is told - getting one of the characters to explain all the others. This has two effects, first, by avoiding the God narrator it legitimizes the fact that the reader doesn't understand everything at once, and secondly it makes the whole affair much more intimate and personal because these events are happening to the narrator who is our friend.

The story concerns two upper middle class couples who meet at a German spa at the turn of the 19th century and become good friends over many years. As the story unfolds it becomes clear that beneath their simple outings and picnics, sexual and emotional plate tectonics are at work. More and more is slowly revealed of what has been going on and the final pages are tragic and grim.

Much is made in literary circles of the fact that the narrator is unreliable and frequently contradicts himself or is plain wrong. This is a very neat device that covers up the fact that somehow the narrator has gotten to understand what everyone else in the story was thinking or feeling. His unreliability is really chaff to cover up this unlikely situation. Nonetheless it is well done and makes the tone and structure of the book enjoyable and unusual.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By M Samuel on 5 July 2011
Format: Paperback
I re-discovered this book recently and thoroughly enjoyed disappearing into it. A nice antidote to all the normal distractions of modern life (unless of course you're having multiple affairs with people, then it might serve as a 'how not to' guide!). Once you allow yourself to embrace the distant world of wealthy Edwardians, there's much to enjoy in this book of betrayal, naivete, misunderstanding, and unexceptional people thrown together and apart by stifling social mores. My favourite character is the 'Dolciquita' (the Spanish dancer and Grand Duke's mistress who is the protagonists first sexual affair) - a sort of human preying mantis who rather than biting the head off her mates, fleeces them for all their money. The story re-told from multiple angles shows how different perspectives can change perception. Absorbing, for those who can make the mental space for it.
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30 of 34 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 29 Oct 1999
Format: Paperback
Ford Madox Ford, although a literary figure often undervalued, must stand alongside the lofty literary statures of giants such as James Joyce and Henry James. Much maligned in life, Ford reflects this in the novel "The Good Soldier" and creates, perhaps, the first modern narrator. Inconsistently and often unreliably, Ford's narrative tells a tale that, although not particularly epic, brings in the reader a sense of sadness and fatalism. "The Good Soldier" often verges towards the Greek Tragedy in that it is a tale of a man destined to pollute all those around him through his infidelity. Written in a time of repressive sexual attitudes, Ford manages to convey a story that, although self-censored, reflects the hidden lives of the real social world; sex, betrayal and adultery. The novel is of great value to anyone currently studying an English Literature course as the narrative style is a groundbreaking one which has influenced the world of literature since. It isn't a great bedside table book yet for anyone interested in the development of the narrative style in English literature it is surely a must.
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